WARNING: Controversial stuff to follow. But nowadays, what isn’t?
Terrorism: one of the defining issues of modern times. While being a tactic used for much longer than many are aware of, it has come to a global focus in the past few decades. With it has come unfathomable amounts of controversy, anger, death, and fear. Because terrorism is BAD. Let it be understood that I DO NOT like terrorism. It’s bad. Very bad. It’s the intentional use of violence, often resulting in death, to initiate fear in a population for the advancement of political goals. But it isn’t evil.
To fully explain my point of view, I must first define my stance on the idea of evil. Others may disagree with me, but I am of the belief that no one is evil. We are all programmed like animals, and everything we humans do is because we deem it the right thing to do on some level. This discussion could go the way of evil in the abstract, but I’m not too well versed in philosophy, so I’ll stick to the idea that terrorism isn’t evil. It’s something I am quite passionate about.
Looking at the definition of terrorism, reworded from the definitions found on various online dictionaries such as Miriam-Webster, should prove enough convincing that terrorism isn’t evil. Its goal is to insight political change. It may be a cruel, cruel way to do so, but you don’t classify those who desire political change to be evil. Of course, political change isn’t brought about through violence and fear, all of it is done through respectful discussions between informed individuals, right? Oh. War.
War is terrible. It’s the intentional large-scale use of violence for political reasons. Of course, it is different from terrorism in a few key areas. One: it (ideally) involves only the lives of those soldiers who consciously commit themselves to the cause. Two: it generally involves the consent (a term used loosely) to go to war by all parties. Three: it’s considered noble, brave, and exists in the platforms of many politicians. People use these reasons, particularly the first two, in the defense of war and the condemnation of terrorism. However, they do not provide an accurate assessment of the reality of the situation.
Can we consider war and terrorism completely separate entities when war has existed in such similar situations as terrorism? Was the bombing of London by the Nazis during WWII not terrorism? Was the bombing of Japan by the USA during WWII not terrorism? Was the use of Agent Orange and other careless practices during the Vietnam War not akin to terrorism? What about the intentional invasions of the various wars in Iraq? Did they not carry some similarities? And what about the bombings of ISIS instalments taking place today? They may be targeted at the members of the organization, but that doesn’t describe the reality of who is actually being affected.
As a society in general, we place this implicit barrier between terrorism and war, but they shouldn’t be thought of as being fundamentally different. Sure, those living in nations with the resources to have large standing armies may see terrorism as something very strange and unjust, but that’s ignoring the other side’s situation. Terrorism is utilized by states, organizations, and groups that cannot participate in direct war with those they have conflicts with. For them, terrorism is the only way they can attempt to fight and protect what they believe in. To be clear, peaceful diplomacy is not an option for these groups, since war and terrorism alike exist only in the place of failed negotiations. To think of terrorism as being evil is to be ignorant of the other side’s point of view and beliefs.
Terrorism is bad. It’s the intentional use of violence to achieve political goals. War is bad. It’s the intentional use of violence to achieve political goals. However you look at it, this is the truth. From living in a nation where war is commonplace and terrorism is only ever seen as a tool used by the enemy, I’ve realized how important it is to seek as good of an understanding as possible of the other side. If you see them as being fundamentally evil, and act on that assumption, than they we see you in the same light, and act accordingly. It creates an endless cycle of malcontent and violence. We are all humans, living on the same lone rock in the universe. We must understand that people can have different beliefs and that no one is fundamentally evil. It’s the only way we can hope to coexist on this planet we share.